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Your Business Experience Could Help Students Grow

You have the ability to impact the life of a Collier County student by becoming an entrepreneurship coach for the Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) High School Entrepreneurship program. In this program, students create and fully develop their own product or service while also learning foundational business topics. Coaches are knowledgeable subject matter experts guiding the student teams in certain areas of their project. Champions For Learning will provide you with guidelines and curriculum to help you co-teach or consult a specialty area to your student teams.

As an entrepreneurship coach you work with students in their class to help them learn the material you either co-teach and present through lectures and activities or consult with each student team and help them apply it to their product or service. You will have access to the curriculum and materials needed for the days you are in class. Coaching occurs on school grounds, during Entrepreneurship class periods, either one-time or monthly.

Coaches will be needed to co-teach or consult with teams on the following topics:

Fall: Spring:
·       Value Proposition ·       Website Creation
·       Customer Segmentation ·       Implementation Planning
·       Introduction to Market Sizing ·       Legal
·       Positioning ·       Storytelling
·       Marketing for Startups ·       Marketing Planning
·       Pricing ·       Sales Planning
·       Initial Revenue Forecasting ·       Financial Story
·       Financial Statements & Health Analysis ·       Forecasting & Minimum Success Criteria
·       Presentation/Public Speaking ·       Funding Requests

·       Presentation/Public Speaking

Join us at our next Entrepreneurship 101 informational session for more details. The virtual session will review information regarding the Entrepreneurship program and the role and responsibilities of a mentor, including the next steps to becoming a coach. For more information or to reserve your virtual spot, please click HERE.

For more information, please contact Danielle Viens-Payne via email at dvienspayne@championsforlearning.org or via phone at 239-263-5785.

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Barbara Evans Selected for Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone Class 41

Champions For Learning’s president and CEO, Barbara Evans, has been selected to participate in Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone Class 41. Evans is one of three people selected to represent the Southwest Region. During her time in Leadership Florida, Evans will help achieve the organization’s mission to convene a statewide community of leaders by recharging their leadership skills and to educate and inspire them to work for a better Florida.

“It is an honor to be selected for Leadership Florida’s Cornerstone Class 41. This is a great opportunity to learn and connect with other likeminded leaders in our state,” said Evans. “I am eager to see the benefits this opportunity will have on Champions For Learning in continuing to serve as a catalyst for educational success by investing in Collier’s students and educators.”

Evans will participate in a nine-month educational program that consists of a series of two and three-day sessions held in cities throughout the state. This will include meaningful forums and opportunities created for inviting, inspiring and valuable experiences.

Upon graduating from the Leadership Florida Cornerstone Class Program, Evans will be among the over 3,300 graduates who serve as chief executive officers of some of Florida’s top corporations, mayors, and other elected officials, executives of pivotal non-profit groups, and leading academicians.

To learn more about Leadership Florida, visit LeadershipFlorida.org.

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Because of Our Volunteers

At Champions For Learning, volunteers are the changemakers that fuel the success of the organization. Because of these changemakers, Champions For Learning is able to create life-changing learning experiences for students and educators in Collier County.

Each year, nearly 400 changemakers dedicate thousands of hours in support of Champions For Learning’s mission. These members of our community volunteer their time in many different ways.

More than half of the volunteers at Champions For Learning serve as mentors for our Take Stock in Children program, dedicating countless hours during the student’s high school years. Becoming part of the students’ support system, mentors are excellent listeners and trusted advocates who want to see their mentee succeed and accomplish great things. Because of volunteers who choose to mentor, students’ lives are forever changed.

New this school year, the INCubatoredu entrepreneurship program within Collier County Public Schools is composed of volunteers. Champions For Learning manages the recruitment and stewardship of mentors, coaches, and judges. These volunteers bring real world expertise into the classroom and not only help students grasp business concepts, but also help students hone critical life skills such as public speaking and interviewing. Because of volunteers, students gain confidence and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Hundreds of volunteers serve on our 15 different community-based selection committees at Champions For Learning. Selection committees serve a critical role in the selection of students to access scholarships and programs offered through Champions For Learning. Volunteers review applications and allocate funding for classroom grant as well as serving on  the Golden Apple selection process. This year, a new selection committee was formed to distribute much-needed hurricane relief funds to Collier County educators and staff.

Often unseen but no less valued, are the volunteers that help with clerical tasks and event details. From assembling event invitations, to stuffing nametags or manning the reception area these detail oriented volunteers make our organization shine.

It is clear that without volunteers who serve as changemakers, Champions For Learning would not be able to have as wide of an impact on education in Collier County. As volunteers are celebrated across the community, Champions For Learning honors our changemakers who give willingly of their time to help better our community through education.

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Making a Lasting Impact – Mentoring at Champions For Learning

At Champions For Learning, to be a mentor is to serve as a trusted advocate and listener to a student.

Chelsea Pittman has learned this firsthand since becoming a mentor last spiring when she was paired with her current mentee, Leidy.

“Leidy moved to the United States from Cuba as she was entering the seventh grade. She was beginning to learn English, the American school system and transitioning into high school, all at once. It was a big transition for her,” shared Chelsea.

Mentors, like Chelsea, in Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children program are paired with students at the beginning of the mentee’s freshman year of high school, to ensure students will have guidance and leadership during these crucial next four years.

“She is very smart, so smart. Our first year was us talking through how she adjusted to high school in America. She was balancing her classes both English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), learning about high school football, clubs, and participating in the Champions For Learning program. Her plate was very full,” said Chelsea.

Because Chelsea and Leidy are close in age they have found it easier to connect and relate to one another.

“I feel like an older sister to her [Leidy], where I can coach her though it all. We are both very lucky that we have each other,” said Chelsea.

Not only is Chelsea making a difference in Leidy’s life, but Leidy is impacting Chelsea in ways she never would have imagined.

“I have learned so much about her. Leidy has taught me about her culture and just how different things are for her family still living in Cuba. It makes me feel very grateful to be here and to be afforded the opportunities of living in Naples,” Chelsea explained.

Wanting to make a difference and give back to her community combined with being familiar with Champions For Learning’s mission, Chelsea knew mentoring was the best way to get involved.

“Naples is a highly philanthropic community, with many ways to give the gift of time and treasure. People my age aren’t in the position to donate financially but can make a difference by donating time. Being a mentor is a fun and easy way to give back to your community without digging into your wallet if you can’t afford it,” Chelsea shared.

For those in Collier County that may want to find ways to support others and give back, Chelsea explained, “Look around, you will see the kids in this community that need our help. It doesn’t take much to be an advocate and listener as you help a student reach their goals for post-secondary education and develop life skills along the way.”

Champions For Learning currently needs mentors to serve students who will attend Golden Gate High, Barron Collier High, and Palmetto Ridge High next school year. If you are interested in learning more, join us for a virtual All About Mentoring Session! Dates and times can be found on our website!

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Financially Supporting our Educators following Hurricane Ian- A letter from Barbara Evans

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian destroyed parts of Southwest Florida. Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) was unable to resume school on Monday, October 3, 2022, because of staffing shortages not because of structural issues of the schools. Dr. Patton expressed deep concerns about the retention of the CCPS educator workforce. Due to the storm, our educator workforce is facing serious challenges with housing and transportation.

The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning leaped into action to help address the CCPS retention challenges. We joined voices with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to secure an initial $350,000 gift from the Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund which set our strategy in motion.

Champions For Learning has extensive experience in selection processes. We leaned on our experiences and developed a grant application, borrowing from a disaster relief nonprofit to build our Hurricane Ian application. Our grant application was posted on the CCPS website, and our application window was November 11, 2022 through November 30, 2022.

Eligible applicants must work for Collier County Public Schools (including CCPS Charter Schools). Applicants must demonstrate that they have sustained damage to their home or vehicles due to Hurricane Ian. Applicants were required to document all financial information related to all insurance claims and possible temporary living situations and temporary transportation solutions.

Champions For Learning put together a selection committee 100% composed of dedicated members of our community to make the award decisions. The committee utilized a selection rubric designed to identify educators with the greatest relief needs while removing any opportunity for personal biases. The committee maintained the goal of anchoring the Collier County educator workforce with intentionality, consistency, and fairness in their methodology for awarding.

As we gleaned a deeper understanding of the individual needs and shared our methodology and process, securing additional funding was less of a challenge. Champions For Learning secured a $587,830 gift from the Collier Community Foundation. We worked with Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to approach Governor and First Lady DeSantis for an additional $250,000 from Volunteer Florida Foundation’s Florida Disaster Fund.

The committee reviewed 179 applications, and we are providing funding to 177 applicants. Two of the applicants are no longer employed by Collier County Public Schools.

On Friday, January 20, 2023, Champions For Learning began distributing the funds to educators and staff. This funding will help with 1) deductibles for homeowners, flood, and car insurance, 2) rental increases for those who had to change rentals due to the storm, 3) first last and security deposits for those who had to move due to the storm, 4) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a total loss, 5) those whose homes or mobile homes were not insurable and they experienced a partial loss and were displaced, 6) storage expenses incurred for items that were salvaged, 7) household items (furniture, etc.), and 8) home repairs not covered by insurance. Our efforts are affording Champions For Learning to allocate more than $1.2 million for our Hurricane Ian response.

The Education Foundation of Collier County – Champions For Learning has been committed to ensuring that these funds that have been entrusted to us for distribution achieve the goal of our donors to assist educators in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. We are proud to be the conduit to ensure that our educators are anchored. We are proud that our donors invested in our Hurricane Ian response due to the integrity and intentionality of our selection and award process. We are proud that we can assist with ensuring Collier County Public Schools with their most pressing issue around educator retention. We are proud to be champions for learning. Education is everything.

In gratitude,


Barbara Evans, CFRE

President and CEO

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With Gratitude: Beverley Hallman Horton

Champions For Learning, along with the entire Collier County community,  is beyond grateful for Beverley Horton and the Champion she was for education.

Beverley taught English at Naples High and started one of the school’s first mentoring programs for struggling students. Importantly, Beverley and her husband Alan helped Byron Koste, then president and CEO of Westinghouse Communities, and others plan the formation of The Education Foundation of Collier County.

Beverley and Alan’s commitment to education was recognized in 2012 when both were honored as Heart of the Apple recipients through Champions For Learning, one of the highest honors awarded to community members by Champions For Learning.

Her passion and commitment inspired, and challenged, our community to think and act aspirationally in providing relevant learning experiences for Collier County students to gain the skills they need to succeed in life.

Click here to read Beverley’s full obituary and contributions of a life well-lived.

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Honoring Lavern Gaynor

Lavern Gaynor understood the importance of an education and how transformative it can be. Her personal passion and leadership around education and the difference it makes for individuals, families and our entire community was evident in all she did.

Mrs. Gaynor made such a positive impact not only on Champions For Learning, but also Southwest Florida. It is because of Lavern’s heart and dedication that we honor her on December 20th, her birthdate.

This December 20th, Champions For Learning encourages those in Collier County to #LeadLikeMrsGaynor. The idea of leading like Mrs. Gaynor came about last year as a way to honor her memory and everything she has done for the community. Leading like Mrs. Gaynor can look different for everyone, but all are encouraged to participate in acts of kindness, just like Lavern would.

Some examples of acts of kindness are below:

  • Bake cookies for the elderly
  • Help at a veterinarian office
  • Give someone a compliment
  • Make dinner for a family in need
  • Hold doors open for people
  • Thank a teacher with a gift
  • Plant a tree
  • Walk a neighbor’s dog
  • Donate some of your clothes
  • Write an encouraging note to someone you know

The list of acts of kindness is endless. Whatever act of kindness you choose to display on December 20th, be sure to use the hashtag #LeadLikeMrsGaynor when posting on social media.

Lavern was a supporter of the Champions For Learning Take Stock in Children scholarship and mentoring program. This program continues to have an impact on students within Collier County to this day through Mrs. Gaynor’s estate gift.

The impact of Mrs. Lavern Gaynor’s leadership and the legacy is seen today throughout Collier County. It is because of Mrs. Gaynor that Future Ready Collier (FRC) partners have the opportunity to collaborate and strive for the collective success of our entire community.  Champions For Learning is the backbone organization facilitating the collaboration of more than 60 partners in education through FRC.

Read more about Lavern Gaynor:

Lavern Gaynor’s generous spirit, keen intellect, and natural curiosity, combined with the small-town values instilled by her parents, was a recipe for living a purposeful life.

Her parents, Lester and Dellora Norris, primarily raised their family in the small farm town of St. Charles, Illinois.

Her father, Lester, was a renowned cartoon illustrator and the family had the opportunity to travel quite a bit.

While a family of means, giving was always at the heart of what her parents did. Their lesson was, if you think enough of a community to live in it, you should do what you can to support and invest in that community to make it a wonderful home for all.

That lesson, along with honesty, fairness, understanding, and volunteerism, guided Lavern in her life.

While attending Northwestern University in 1942, Lavern volunteered on the south side of Chicago, tutoring and mentoring teenage boys whose fathers were drafted into WW Il and mothers had to go to work. She began to understand the struggles children were facing and without volunteer support, they had a higher chance of being negatively impacted.

The Norris family has very deep ties in Naples. In 1945, Lavern joined her parents on her first trip to Naples where they invested in the Keewaydin Club and later bought five miles on Key Island to preserve it.

Lavern was proud of her family’s efforts to help shape the entire community of Naples.

Lavern married George Gaynor in 1946. When George was promoted at Texaco, he transferred to Belgium with the entire family, their son was four and daughter six.

Lavern’s experiences as a foreigner living in Europe helped her understand firsthand, the challenges of immigrant parents trying to educate and raise their children in the U.S. when English is not their native language.

In 1976, after many years overseas, Lavern and George returned to the U.S. and settled in Naples permanently.

Lavern has watched Naples grow from a sleepy fishing village to a fast-growing and thriving community.

Just as her parents taught her, Lavern dedicated herself to making Naples a wonderful home for all.

Having grown her own understanding and advocacy for children through her experience as a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, her passion for education, and the opportunities it brings, is one that has made the difference for thousands of children.

And, her value for learning, and listening to understand one another’s perspectives, has been a significant influence on the culture of our community.

“I know in my heart,” said Lavern, “that these children, teenagers, and families are well prepared to be successful in their future educational endeavors, careers and lives, and will eventually be the ones giving back in a meaningful way and ensuring the future success of the community.”

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Preparing Students for Success through Career Exploration Labs

Students involved in Champions For Learning programming are getting a better look at what their future career could look like. For two weeks, successful business men and women within Collier County have taken the time to visit Champions For Learning and speak with students. Topics range from how they began their career, to what they studied in college to what students should be doing today to prepare for a future career.

Alan is a student within Champions For Learning and has aspirations to study biotechnology. He attended the Business and Entrepreneurship lab because he feels that business is used everywhere, even in the medical field.

“I wanted to learn more about the career path process and how I can develop skills that can help me advance towards my preferred career,” said Alan.

Other session that have been available are Communications, Information Systems, Engineering, Manufacturing, Technology, Business, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.

“I think that when I was younger and starting my entrepreneurship journey, there were not a lot of resources like this. This is a great resources and I love to be a part of the development of young minds. I think that’s a really cool thing,” said Rafael Feliciano, a guest speaker at the Business and Entrepreneurship session.

Tasheekia Harris is an entrepreneur who founded her own organization, Crowning Daughters for Success. Her mission is to inspire and enhance the diverse lifestyle of young girls and women. She dedicated her time to come and speak to students about starting a business and what that looked like for her.

“I believe if we build strong, children, we will not need to repair broken men. That quote is from Fedrick Douglas. This is the building process. We are in the building process together and this was one brick that I believe will make a huge difference in how our young people think, how they act, and how they pursue their dreams,” said Harris.

Each session has been facilitated by a volunteer. These moderators have helped keep the session on track making sure students get the most out of each.

Career Exploration labs continue with session regarding Health Sciences, Technology, and Human Services.

If helping students prepare for a future career sounds interesting to you, join us for a Champions 101. These are information sessions that serve as an introduction to who we are, what we do, and how to help.

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Champions For Learning Honors 2022-2023 Glass Slipper Recipients at Luncheon

Champions For Learning honored the 2022-2023 Glass Slipper recipients at a luncheon Thursday, December 1st at The Club at Olde Cypress. The honorees are Brenda O’Connor, Dr. Kamela Patton and Tammi Pittaro (see below for bios).

Each year, the Glass Slipper event is held to honor female leaders for their dedication and service to the children of Collier County. This event and recognition program benefits young ladies who are graduates of Champions For Learning scholarship and mentoring programs and helps meet their needs as college students. Since the inception of the Glass Slipper event in 2004, $167,000 has been raised, providing 32 young women the funding needed to complete their degrees.

This year, $26,790 was raised to provide scholarships for women who have completed 60 semester hours but need additional scholarships funds to complete their postsecondary education. The Glass Slipper Scholarships helps Champions For Learning ensure that graduates from the organization are not just getting to college, but through college.

$2,500 was raised at the Glass Slipper Luncheon event through a wine pull in honor of Myra Daniels. Mayra was a 2013 Glass Slipper recipient. These funds will go towards a scholarship in her name.

This year’s event was co-chaired by Gina Lostracco and Dottie Whipple, both previous Glass Slipper honorees. The event was sponsored by Naples Daily News and Naples Illustrated, and hosted by Stock Development.

Pictures from the luncheon can be viewed here.

Meet the 2022-2023 Glass Slipper Recipients:


Brenda O’Connor is an unsung hero in many ways.  She has supported children and education for many years in numerous ways.  Each year she hosts and sponsors the CFL students at Naples Yacht Club for their etiquette class/luncheon which has proven to be so successful at CFL events.  She has not only supported Champions for years, but also serves as Chair of the Women’s Foundation and has served on the Board of Youth Haven.  It is wonderful to have Brenda as a member of the Glass Slipper Sisterhood.




Dr. Kamela Patton is currently in her 12th year as  is the district’s first female superintendent in Collier County Public Schools history. She has spent the past several year tackling some of biggest obstacles Collier County has faced to date, springing into action to see our students and educators through a global pandemic and two major hurricanes with a “whatever it takes” attitude. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Dr. Patton has always prioritized communications and transparency and has worked diligently to strengthen the connection between the school district and our amazing community. This past year, Dr. Patton was selected as the Florida Superintendent of the Year. She will be capping her 35-year career in public education this spring and, for all of her service to our community, is truly deserving of this recognition.



Tammi Pitaro has served in many volunteer roles in support of Champions for Learning over the years.  She is an experienced Mentor with Champion’s Take Stock program.  She has been on the Golden Apple and Classroom Grant Selection Committees.  And as a Student Programs volunteer, she has helped with resume writing, personal statements, networking and as a financial aide coach helped students and parents prepare FAFSA Applications.  Tammi is always willing to pitch in and embodies the spirit of the Glass Slipper award

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Student, Mentee, Now Teacher!

Alaysha G., an alumni from Champions For Learning’s Take Stock in Children, program will cross the stage this month earning her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Florida Gulf Coast University. Alaysha started her educational journey in Naples. She was born and raised in Collier County and began pursuing teaching because it is her passion.

“In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. That is until I started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County. I knew teaching was for me because of the instant bonds I made with the kids. I loved them and wanted to give back,” shared Alaysha.

Alaysha was inducted into the Take Stock in Children’s program at Champions For Learning program in eighth grade, almost seven years ago. Since then, Alaysha has grown up with the guidance and wisdom of her mentor Tammi Pittaro, a former teacher of thirty-seven years.

“The chances that I was paired with Mrs. Tammi, a former teacher, definitely made me believe this was my calling. She inspired me to be a teacher. She always encourages me, and to this day keeps pushing me to want to be a better me,” shared Alaysha.

Pittaro was recently awarded as a recipient of a Glass Slipper for her dedicated involvement in Collier County. Alaysha accompanied Pittaro to the event when receiving the award. Both are still very close to this day.

Alaysha relied on scholarships to help her fund her undergraduate years and joined Champions For Learning knowing she needed the support.

“Growing up, my parents told me they were not able to pay for my college. I made sure I earned enough scholarships to pay for my schooling,” said Alaysha. “Champions For Learning did a great job in preparing me for college. If I did not have Champions, I don’t know where I would be. They gave me the right resources, helped me with financial aid, applying for colleges, my personal statements, networking events, all which I am so very grateful for,” said Alaysha.

As a now retired teacher, Mrs. Pittaro continues to support Alaysha especially in her college programs where she would give her tips that could be implemented into her lesson plans.

“Alaysha is a special person. I am blessed to have been her mentor and I’ve learned as much from her as she’s learned from me. She’s a very special person in my life and always will be,” said Pittaro. “I’m so excited for her future and I know she is going places. She is going to make a big difference in the world and have a huge impact on the people that come after her.”

Alaysha was recently accepted into Florida Guld Coast University’s master’s program where she will earn a degree in Special Education while being a substitute teacher in Collier County.

Champions For Learning is so proud to serve amazing students, teachers, and future educators. Giving back and serving as a mentor can change a young person’s life. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or want to learn how to give back in our community, join us for a Champions 101 to learn more about the need in our community and how you can impact our students, families, and teachers in Collier County.

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